Housing Minister Nick Smith appears to have blinked first in the standoff between the Government and Auckland iwi over the use of surplus crown land for new housing developments.

An agreement announced yesterday maintained the right of iwi to first refusal on the sale of any of the land. However, in a concession agreed by the iwi, if they did buy any land it would have to be used for housing under a set of conditions which would require 20% be affordable housing and another 20% state housing.

In return Ngati Whatua has withdrawn its legal action against the Crown.

But such is the political delicacy of the agreement that one of its clauses requires that each side inform the other when they make any media statements.

All along Ngati Whatua was briefing journalists that what it wanted was the principle that when Crown land was disposed of and when it was included in the Schedule to a Treaty agreement, then it had to be offered to the relevant iwi first.

The Ngati Whatua Orakei Trust Deputy Chair, Ngarimu Blair, said the agreement clarified how the Government and iwi would engage with one another in relation to surplus Crown land.

Under the Development Protocol agreed as part of the Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmakai Collective settlement agreement in 2012, the Crown would first provide iwi with the first opportunity to be the developer before offering it to other private sector developers.

“The importance of these issues to the Crown, to iwi and to all Aucklanders is such that we are very happy to see the application to the High Court about the RFR issue withdrawn,” said Mr Blair.

Though the Tamaki Collective involving 13 iwi/hapu has undertaken housing developments in partnership with the Crown, Ngati Whatua did not indicate any interest in undertaking a development itself.

But yesterday’s agreement includes the whole Collective so it paves the way for them to repeat the kind of development they did at Weymouth where a $102 million development built 282 affordable and social houses.


Interestingly the Weymouth development is referred to in the protocol unveiled yesterday with Mr Smith’s department saying that it considers that “its obligations under this protocol have already been met in respect of land at Weymouth currently set apart for state housing purposes.”

The agreement defines affordable housing as being houses “that are attainable for first home buyers (likely to be no more than the Kiwi Saver HomeStart cap which is currently $550,000).”

And though POLITIK understands there is still some work to be done on the fine print it is proposed that the 20% of social or state houses to be built, will be sold to Community Housing Providers as is currently being done with Housing New Zealand properties in Tauranga and Invercargill.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said she had been listening to New Zealand’s Community Housing Providers and the message was clear that they are eager to continue their growth.

“This announcement gives them more opportunities to grow their portfolio and provide more innovative ways of caring for vulnerable tenants,” she said.

This is a significant development because it indicates that it is now Government policy to own no more new state houses but rather that the houses be placed in Community Housing provider ownership.

It looks as though the Auckland experience with Right of First Refusal to iwi has been acknowledged by the Crown — as Ngati Whatua wanted— and as was indicated with the way officials have been able to specific which houses being offered for sale in Tauranga and Invercargill fall under that category.

Both sides to the dispute yesterday were saying it was “win win” but one side (iwi) were really bigger winners than the Crown.